Friday, December 2, 2011

75 River Street "Repurposed"

The Shareholders Meeting inside 75 River St. Photo courtesy of Bradley Stuart

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, CA. --- On Wednesday, a splinter group roughly formed out of Occupy Santa Cruz, occupied a vacant building that years ago housed Coast Commercial Bank. The building at 75 River St. has been sitting empty ever since, providing no services to the public, no jobs for citizens, and no tax revenue to the City. In fact, a forensic accounting will most likely reveal that the empty property is providing a tax write-off to the owner to the tune of the full rent of its last tenant every month.

Furthermore, The City of Santa Cruz has a whole agency to deal with blighted properties, the Redevelopment Agency, which has failed to even address this property.
75 River Street is located directly in the center of our commercial district, sharing a lot line with our downtown post office. The fact that such a building should remain for YEARS without a tenant or business in the center of the community is a testament to the unchecked practices of the 1% (and WELLS FARGO certainly is included in that coddled 1%). Local property owner, Peter Cook laments the taking of “private property” falsely claiming that his property may be next. But unless Cook has property sitting unrented and unused in the middle of our community for years and years, he has nothing to fear.

Add that many in our community would love to rent that building and use it for a business, an organization, or for a community asset, but cannot due to the astronomically high rents charged. Meanwhile, the empty building sits year after year, taking up valuable space, and contributing NOTHING to our community.

Why haven’t our City leaders stepped in earlier and stopped this practice? And is it REALLY the proper use of public safety resources to act as the private security guards for a blighted building that the owners have been allowed to sit fallow for YEARS? These are clear signs that Vice-Mayor Don Lane, the SCPD, and the DTA are really hawkers for continuing to enrich the 1% at the expense of our community by defending the owners of properties like 75 River Street. No private party should be allowed to let their property sit for years at at time, not providing any jobs for our citizens, any tax revenue for the City, or any services for the public. Kudos to the occupiers for pointing out this wrongful policy in action.

If Lane is for real, he'd be promoting a new ordinance to fine such property owners until they get the message that owning property implies responsibility for that property by using it, not moth-balling it.

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